Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 4 – Escape From Luna II

This episode cuts right to the chase! White Base has docked at Luna II only to find that the Federation base can’t take on the civilians White Base needs to drop off. Apparently, Luna II has been under a ‘state of emergency’ for some time now, though as far as we can see they aren’t currently under attack or anything. Regardless, Bright is furious at the situation. Well, Bright, if you think things are bad now, buckle up – they’re about to get a lot worse.

Enter Commandant Wakkein, the man in charge of Luna II. He’s got a bone to pick with the White Base crew; they’re mostly civilians, so they shouldn’t be exposed to classified military tech like the Gundam. Therefore he’s having them all arrested! That’s right, he’s arresting the likes of Amuro, Mirai, and the rest for… having the bad luck to be useful in a crisis? Amuro, Kai, and Hayato I could sort of understand; since Wakkein didn’t see how bad things were on Side 7, I could see him thinking that the three didn’t need to pilot the Gundam and Guntank. But the others? Mirai was the only person on board with piloting experience; she practically got conscripted. As for Sayla, has she even done anything at this point other than get bandages for Captain Paolo?

This episode lays the groundwork for an idea that will become much more prominent as the franchise evolves: neither side in this war is truly ‘good.’ Wakkein may be a Federation officer and therefore ostensibly on the side of the angels, but he’s so slavishly devoted to bureaucracy and the chain of command that he’s persecuting innocent civilians simply because they did what they had to to survive. Later Universal Century works, most prominently shows like Zeta Gundam and The 08th MS Team, also feature numerous villains within the Federation’s ranks; those characters can trace their lineage back here to Wakkein. Thematically, I mean. He’s not literally Bask Om’s dad or anything. As far as I know, anyway. Man, that would be a wild twist!

This element plays an important part in reinforcing the core theme of the series: war is awful. It is not an issue of black and white, good and evil. Though the Earth Federation has not resorted to anything as horrific as Zeon’s colony drop, that does not mean that they are uniformly heroic. By the same token, if some members of the Federation are bad, perhaps not every member of Zeon is a heartless villain. The simple act of turning Wakkein into the primary antagonist of the episode adds a wonderful new dimension to the entire conflict. Most poignantly, Wakkein’s first act is to punish the White Base crew, many of whom were dragged into this war by force. This gets right to the core of the issue: regardless of which, if either, side is ‘right,’ innocent people are going to be caught in the crossfire.This idea reaches its zenith much later in the UC timeline, in the series Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. Unicorn sees its protagonist, Banagher Links, repeatedly move back and forth between a Federation vessel and a Zeon-affiliated one, and comes to understand the good and bad aspects of both sides before ultimately deciding to choose his own path. Interestingly, in that series it’s Bright Noa – a high-ranking officer himself by that point – who encourages Banagher on his way.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Returning to Luna II, it’s not just the civilians Wakkein is after – even Bright and Ryu get locked up. They’re actual Federation military! I suppose Wakkein feels Bright is on the hook for letting the civilians have access to classified areas of White Base, but what about Ryu? All he’s done is fly the Core Fighter; isn’t that what he was training to do anyway?

I’m not the only one who’s mad about it. Amuro looks like he wants to punch Wakkein in the face, but he’s held back – first by Fraw, then by a bunch of gun-toting Federation soldiers. As the crew is led away, Bright warns that Char was tailing them and will likely assault Luna II, which Wakkein dismisses out-of-hand. After all, Wakkein says, Char only has a single Musai; there’s no way he’d try to attack Luna II.

Naturally, we then cut to Char, who is explaining to his Musai’s captain, Dren, that now is the perfect time to attack Luna II because the Federation would never expect a single Musai to attempt an assault.

Way to go, Wakkein. Stellar decisions so far today.

Anyway, Char isn’t just thinking about his clever plan. He’s also thinking about the mysterious blonde he met on Side 7. Okay, I know I said back in Episode 2 that his line “She’s too strong to be Artesia” wouldn’t make sense for a long time; turns out they explain it faster than I thought. Char, in a fit of exposition, wonders if this strong woman could truly be the long-lost sister he hasn’t seen in a decade. Well, that’s one mystery solved, though we still don’t know the whole story.

Getting back to Char’s plan, it’s similar to the one from Episode 2: a team will infiltrate the base in normal suits. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, eh? The main difference is that this time, the infiltrators will be carrying bombs. Lots of bombs.

Meanwhile, the White Base crew members are acclimating to their cells – the women in one, the men in another. Not much happens in this scene, but I wanted to touch on it for one reason in particular: both Kai and Ryu take the time to lecture Amuro about food. This is the scene I was thinking of when I said that Gundam really hits this topic hard. Kai opines that one should always eat food when one has the chance, and Ryu compares eating food to putting bullets in your gun. It’s weird! I get that Amuro often misses meals because he’s working, but surely he understands the mechanics of eating and why it’s important.

Incidentally, this food looks absolutely awful. I wouldn’t blame Amuro for skipping this meal. Even after getting bullied into eating, it looks like he spends most of his time drawing a diagram in his nutrient paste to explain the Gundam’s learning computer. So, we’re still using that to explain Amuro’s prowess, huh? Newtypes can’t come along fast enough.

Char and his men place the bombs (Char has a custom normal suit, by the way; I’m betting it also goes three times faster) and chaos ensues on Luna II. Wakkein immediately panics and orders the launch of his Magellan-class warship. I suppose there’s a chance he’s launching to find and destroy the Musai, but come on; we all know that’s not what’s happening here. He’s running away – he doesn’t even bother evacuating the civilians from White Base first. He doesn’t get very far, though, because the Magellan’s launch was also part of Char’s plan! He’s really got Wakkein’s number. Some well-placed bombs go off and the Magellan is disabled (though not destroyed). Even worse, the wrecked ship is now blocking off the exit, trapping the White Base inside Luna II.

Luckily for our heroes, the bombs knock out the power in the holding cells, freeing the crew. Bright comes into his own here, organizing their escape and knocking out a few soldiers along the way (including one who was pointing a gun at Kikka, who’s about 4 years old; real classy, dude). This is our first glimpse at the man Bright will become over the course of this show and its sequels.

He gets everyone back to the White Base, but as they are getting the Gundam on board, who should appear but Wakkein! Having survived the bombing of his ship, he now tries to arrest everyone again, in the middle of a battle with Zeon. Bright (who is really on fire this episode) calls Wakkein on his crap, backed by Mirai and Captain Paolo, who are Skyping in from elsewhere on White Base. Wakkein finally backs down when Paolo tells him to, and White Base destroys the Magellan’s remains so they can escape from Luna II – oh! I just got the title of the episode!

Of course, this isn’t just a show about galactic bureaucracy as it relates to spaceship crews – it’s also about giant robots. Naturally, our heroes aren’t leaving Luna II without a good, old-fashioned mech fight. Char and his crewmen (two grunts named Matthew and Fix) launch in their Zakus while Amuro and Ryu head out in the Gundam and Core Fighter, respectively. This is a solid fight. Char busts out the Zaku II’s heat hawk, which is basically a lightsaber axe, and has an awesome duel with Amuro. Matthew and Fix put up a decent fight, but Ryu flies circles around them; one of them tries to ambush Amuro mid-duel and gets a beam saber in the chest for his trouble. Char is forced to retreat yet again.

Unfortunately, Matthew and Fix aren’t the only casualties this episode. As the White Base exits their engagement with the enemy, Captain Paolo – who never recovered from his shrapnel injuries – finally passes away. It’s a sad, though not unexpected, moment. Its most immediate effect is that it leaves Bright fully in charge of White Base, though at least he finally seems to be adjusting to command. Wakkein, of all people, takes the death the hardest, lamenting that Paolo still had so much to teach them all. Given that Paolo seems to have been one of the only reasonable authority figures in the Federation hierarchy, Wakkein might be right about that.

The episode closes with a funeral scene straight out of Star Trek as Paolo’s body is loaded into a torpedo and shot into space. Don’t worry – I’m sure that in ZZ Gundam we’ll find out that his body landed on the same planet as the Genesis Device and he’s miraculously been revived.

As the White Base heads toward Earth and the crew mourns its captain, Amuro wonders where his dad is, leading the audience to ponder… Um, why? Where did that come from, Amuro? Did… did Captain Paolo remind you of your dad? That’s kind of weird. Or, wait, did you see your dad get sucked out into space a few episodes back? Did seeing Paolo’s torpedo launch into the icy void remind you of your father’s fate? Or are you just not very invested in this funeral and you’re letting your mind wander? Regardless, tune in next week to… not learn the answer to that question, because Episode 5 is about a cool space battle and features no dads whatsoever.

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